Review of “Shah Jahan Regency” – A reincarnation of “Chowringhee”
Director – Srijit Mukherji
Cast – Abir Chatterjee, Parambrata Chatterjee, Swastika Mukherjee, Anirban Bhattacharya, Anjan Dutt, Mamata Shankar, Rittika Sen, Rudranil Ghosh, Sujay Prasad Chatterjee
Overall Rating – 3.5/5
Since when the film was announced, there were rumors that Srijit Mukherji is going to make a remake of Uttam Kumar’s classic Chowringhee but Srijit has always made it clear that his movie Shah Jahan Regency is a modern day adaptation of the novel Chowringhee written by Shankar not a remake of the movie. In fact in the beginning of the film, it has been made very clear that Chowringhee was a novel first then a movie and this story is not a remake but reincarnation of the novel in 2017. So it is unnecessary to bring any comparison.
Those who have read the story or at least seen the movie, they already know the basic plot of the story. For the uninformed, it is a story revolving around a luxury hotel told through the point of view of a middle class Bengali guy who has joined in the hotel as an intern. The story was written in the 60’s since then a lot has changed in the city as well as in hotel industry so for obvious reasons some changes have been made in the story and its characters too. For example now the hotel Shah Jahan do not try to impress the guests by maintaining an Anglo-Indian culture rather it showcase Indian tradition with pride because now foreigners also get charmed by Indian culture. It looks quite justified when we see Gomez and his cabaret group from the story have been replaced with Gayitri (Rituparna Sengupta) and her Indian classical tunes on the Sur-Bahar (an instrument similar to sitar). Even the owner of the hotel is a Bengali named Makaranda Pal (Anjan Dutt). The names of the characters has been changed. Here we can see Sameeran Bose (Abir Chatterjee) as the chief at reception desk and Rudra (Parambrata Chatterjee),the narrator of the story, as the intern working under him. Also compared to the original story, the film is more daring to admit the truth. So here Kamalini Guha (Swastika Mukherjee), the hostess of the double suit owned by a businessman, is okay to accept that she is a high society escort. Here we can see a gay man Nityahari aka nitty-gritty (Sujoy Prasad Chatterjee), the head of house keeping department, is open to admit his sexual orientation. Through this character director has given a strong message against homophobia which is commendable.
The screenplay written by Srijit Mukherji himself has been well adapted from the story doing necessary changes as per today’s time but keeping the soul of the story intact. It has some wonderful moments and smart references to our history and mythology too. Comparisons of Makaranda Pal with Shah Jahan or Kamalini with Amrapali and Vasantasena are some examples of very clever writing. But in spite of this good points the screenplay is the weakest part about the film. Srijit has divided his script in six chapters but honestly saying apart from the first and last chapter named Check-In and Check-Out none of the other chapters hold any significance. Lots of stories are going on revolving around so many characters and the script fails to bind them together. The subplots looks scattered and not well connected with each other. The film has three love stories, which unfolds one by one. First one is about hotel owner Makaranda Pal, his wife (Pallavi Chatterjee) and a fake girlfriend (Ushashie Chakraborty). The second one is the love story of hostess Kamalini Guha with one of her business client Arnab Sarkar (Anirban Bhattacharya) and the third one is the generation gap love story between Sameeran Bose and an air-hostess Supreeta (Rittika Sen). Among these three, the first one is very poorly written and under developed. In fact it could have been easily avoided. It has added nothing but only length to the film. The second one is the best track of the film and the third one is quite okay. The main problem with these three stories is that the stories comes one after another. Looks like one story has to finish to make room for the other. As a result it appears little awkward when we see a budding romance between Sameeran and Supreeta soon after the tragic ending of the earlier track. Also as the last track begin towards the end with little time left so it looks quite hurried. Two people fall in love and decide to settle down very quickly. In stead of that the story could have been developed slowly taking time. It would have been a better idea to continue the three tracks in parallel and coming to the conclusions one by one in the climax. Apart from these three love stories there is one separate track about the growing proximity between Rudra and Kamalini which is very well handled. In between there is a situation about a business deal involving a cricket team that part has been immaturely handled. Although all these short comings of the screenplay has been covered up by the smartly written dialogues by Mukherji himself.
As a director Srijit Mukherji has done a good job but it is definitely not his best. Shooting in real locations in hotel campus was quite challenging but he has worked on more challenging premises earlier. His supervision over the whole craft is commendable but one wish he would have worked more on the screenplay. Like always his technical team has supported him really well. One cant miss to mention Gairik Sarkar for his excellent cinematography. Although it has been mostly shot at the interiors of different hotels but the production designers have worked very well to make them look like the part of one common hotel named Shah Jahan Regency.
The best thing about the film is definitely the ensemble cast. Everyone in the cast have acted very well but the brightest start among them is Swastika Mukherjee for sure. She has given one of her career best performance here. Just like her character Kamalini, she too has used her body as well as intellect to provide the required sex appeal to the character. It is not just about how much comfortable she is in exposing her body or saying bold dialogues, it is about how she has approached the character and makes it look authentic. One can see the inner pain of the character in her eyes although she is looking pretty and presentable as part of her job. She has most of the finest scenes in the film whether it is her first interaction with Rudra or her confrontation with Mrs. Sarkar or her emotional breakdown scene being drunk and above all her final act which has a compelling effect on the audience. Abir Chatterjee has played the very risky character of Sameeran Bose who is modeled on the character of Sata Bose played by Uttam Kumar in the earlier film. It is very obvious that he will be compared with the legend but he has ignored those comparisons and played the character with his own easy charm. He looks authentic in his part and have acted well. For a change after a long time we have seen him doing on screen romance and his female fans will surely love this side of him. Parambrata Chatterjee has wonderfully depicted the journey of his character Rudra, from a naive intern to well experienced employee. In one scene his character has been compared with the cockroaches who can survive in any extreme situation. Being true to that, we have seen his character shifting to different jobs in the prologue, then trying to adjust in the luxurious hotel and finally we see him as a confident employee of the hotel who can easily change himself to match up with the makeover of the hotel. In each stage Parambrata has looked convincing. His comic timing in the first half is delightful to watch. Anirban Bhattacharya is one confident actor who never bothers about his screen time. Probably he knows that he will be able to left his mark even in a comparatively smaller role. He has done the same here. He has acted very well that too opposite a senior and powerful actress like Swastka Mukjerjee. Casting of Mamata Shankar as the dual faced socialite Mrs Sarkar was quite tricky. It is probably her first character with grey shades. She has portrayed this character with much required balance. She never looks like out an out vamp rather she has projected her character as a modern day woman with practical sensibilities. Anjan Dutt had given some wonderful performances last year with Srijit Mukherji but here his character is so one note and under developed that he has nothing much to do. Plus his wig and traditional costumes do not go well with his image. Rudranil Ghosh is effective as the private detective sporting various looks but one must wonder whether his character really needed his own back story. Sujoy Prasad Chatterjee has been cast very well and have done a good job. Rituparna Sengupta has very little to do but she is impressive whenever she appears on screen. Rittika Sen is less experienced compared to her co-actors and it was quite difficult for her to match up with them but she has somehow succeeded in that challenge.
The music of the film deserves special mention specially for the one song Kichchu Chaini Aami composed by Prosen. This song appears three times in the film and every time it touches our soul. Prosen’s another song Bolo Na Radhika is also nice but it has been wasted here in a love story in which no one is invested. In the end credits, Rabindra Sangeet Jakhon Porbe Na Mor Paayer Chinho in the voice of Rupankar Bagchi is very apt with the situation. Surprisingly Anupam Roy does not impress much this time but Indraadip Das Gupta’s background score is impressive like always.
On a whole Shah Jahan Regency is a well made adaption of the classic novel. Although the script leaves some scope for improvement but still it is an enjoyable watch because of the strong acting performances, smartly written dialogues and soothing music. Go ahead and check in to Shah Jahan Regency, it will surely give you a satisfactory experience.